The Invitation (Part-2)

It was the Third of May, 2009. It was the third day after I first heard the Call. Since that first time two days prior, I had resolved to take up the issue of the Call with my Lord in a later prayer period.  But I had to wait for two days before He would bring it and discuss it with me in detail.  He and I had many other things on our agenda, and the many prayer periods in between were filled with so many revelations of Himself, and affirmations of his love for me.

The time had finally come. It was 12:40pm, and I had just finished my lunch.  This was going to be my thirteenth prayer period throughout this entire five-day retreat.  My Lord made it clear to me that Teach and Preach meant primarily to Evangelize – to Catechize.  By word and by music, my Lord desired that I be used to strengthen the worship life of the people I would come in contact with, the people I would serve, and to increase their knowledge of the Catholic Faith.

I recalled then that I had received a similar message in the past.  I mentioned this to my Lord. And He said, “Yes, but you wouldn’t take it seriously, postponing it.  You must act on it now. You’re not getting any younger.”

This, I was made to believe, was the kind of “priesthood” into which he was calling me then. It didn’t seem to be an ordained ministry.  It was an anointing, yes, but unto service and not unto ministry.  Then the Lord revealed to me a vision of how His plan for me would unfold.  It was a powerful vision, the details of which I am not wont to describe in detail for now. I knew then, as I knew now, that I had to build my life in teaching and training, in music and worship.  Everything that I will be doing should build to the realization of God’s plan for me.

The many prayer periods that followed, until the end of my retreat, were opportunities to strengthen my relationship and my discourses with Him.  We had many moments then, till now, where the Plan He has for my life would be discussed, enriched by many visions and affirmations.

I ended that retreat with two very important graces: The grace of my purpose, plan, my Call; and the grace of growing accustomed to my Lord’s voice.  Today, more than two years after that retreat, I still recall the prayer periods. I still recall God’s plan. Most definitely, I still recall His Voice.  And even in my present prayer life, I would know if the one who speaks in prayer is God or some other.

This is the plan that I am acting on now.  And my heart has become less restless, more rested, in the arms and heart of my God.

As to the state of life, that is one path that has taken a longer, much longer route.  And that is a story for another time.

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The Invitation (Part-1)

It was the First of May, 2009 – a First Friday – when I received the first prompting of God’s mission for me. Call it my first encounter with the Invitation, if you will. I was in San Jose Seminary, inside the Ateneo de Manila University grounds. It was 2:35pm, and I was seated in front of the Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament (the Seminary had Adoration Chapels/Rooms in every floor, and I was in the basement/”dungeon” area). Following the prayer material provided by my Spiritual Director, I began meditating on my selected Scriptural passage from the Gospel according to St. John, Chapter 1, verses 35 to 39. I reproduce it here for quick reference:

[35] The next day again John stood, and two of his disciples.
[36] And beholding Jesus walking, he saith: Behold the Lamb of God.
[37] And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
[38] And Jesus turning, and seeing them following him, saith to them: What seek you? Who said to him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?
[39] He saith to them: Come and see. They came, and saw where he abode, and they stayed with him that day: now it was about the tenth hour.

(Douay-Rheims Bible Translation)

I had just finished my first reading of the passage, dwelling on “Come and See.” I was recalling a Youth Encounter (YE) retreat I attended in High School. When I was reading the passage for the second time, however, the Lord drew my attention to one word from verse 36… “Behold.” Behold… As my consciousness started to latch on the word “Behold,” it began to be filled with the words “Teach” and “Preach.”

This revelation disturbed me, because I began associating it with the Priesthood. Many disturbing thoughts and memories began to surface in my meditation. But I had learned in my previous prayer periods that the only way to overcome this “noise” in my soul was to “fix my eyes” on Jesus Christ, like a drowning man holding to a rope that was wound around a strong, immovable Rock. And so I did, crying out to the Lord to save me.

When the initial tempest had passed, I heard the Lord’s voice – I have grown accustomed to His voice already, now in my second day of this five-day retreat. He assured me of His saving and healing Presence, and then assured me that I will be a priest – but not in the manner I expect or am accustomed to, and that in time, I will find out.

And then my period of prayer ended. I was disturbed, and I knew I would have to ask the Lord to elaborate this Call, this invitation to “Teach” and “Preach” and this manner of “priesthood.”

But now was not the time, and it would not be in the next prayer period that followed. I was to find out in a special way. As of the moment, however, it has pleased the Lord Jesus to simply disturb me.

A Trial of Love

Lord, I need to tell you something straight out:

It is so hard to love the unlovable, to love those who hurt and abuse you, to love those who oppress you, to love your enemies and betrayers.

If I had my way, I’d either walk out or retaliate.

But I can’t. Your Cross is so unfair… I look on it and it reminds me to love the unlovable, to love my enemies… Because You stretched your body on that Cross even when I was unlovable… Even when I was unworthy of anything good that comes from You.

Must I love, as You loved? Must I forgive as You forgave?

In the innermost recesses of my soul, I know the answer.

You loved me, You forgave me – a worm, and raised me up to become a son.

I have no right to treat others less, others who probably are much worthier than I am…

Lord, please… If you cannot make them more lovable, at least, give me the grace to make it easier to love.

“…whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also…” (Matthew 7:12)

How different this is from the other saying, “Do not do unto others what you do not want done unto you!”

The Lord Jesus Christ does not focus on the avoidance of doing what may be displeasing.

Rather, He commands us: Do good if you want good done unto you.

Don’t wait for others to be good or kind in general or towards you in particular.

Let all that is good, that is kind, begin with you… with me.

2,000 years before the movie, the Lord Jesus Christ has already commanded: Pay It Forward.

I only pray that my motivation for paying it forward is not any good I can receive in return.

May it always be for the love of the Lord Jesus. Always.

 

Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam in thy own eye (Matthew 7:5)

Focus, O my soul, on your path to holiness.

Focus on the many sins, on the curse of concupiscence that needs be purged from you.

Focus on the many graces our Lord is pouring unto you, that you may be holy.

Focus on your relationship with He Who Is Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier, Father, Lord, Lover, and Beloved.

Mind not the sins of others, but only pray for them.

Pray that they become holy – even holier than you, O my soul,

Provided you become as holy as you should.

For after all these things do the heathens seek (Matthew 6:32)

If I seek the the things of this world as ends and if I find myself worried about so many material things, convert me Lord. Do not count me among the pagans, who no nothing of, nor aspire to know of Your Kingdom.

 

Let me be worthy of my Christian identity – let me seek only your Kingdom. Let all else be collateral damage or benefit, and of no import.

 

I am a Christian, Lord. Help me to live faithfully as one.

 

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

I realize that, after a little bit of meditation on Matthew 6:10, one of prayer’s aims is to really change the heart of the one praying.

I mean, God does not need our prayers to be glorified. He is perfect, all-sufficient, all loving. What else does He need?  Nothing.

But then, need is different from want… What does He want?

He wants our love. And this to me, is what “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is all about.  What else is love if not the directing of one’s will towards the good of the beloved? And in Heaven, God is the supreme good, and the supreme beloved…

 

So if we really want earth to be as heaven, then we must – without compromise – love God and love all things because of God.

Only then can all the other qualities of heaven, as our limited minds can conceive, be palpable here on earth.

In all things, love.

 

Help me, Lord, to do your will here on earth by loving You and loving others because of You.

Otherwise, I know I’ll be in living hell every day of my earthly life.

 

And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matthew 6:4)

Lord Jesus, you remind me today to do good in secret, and not for the whole world to see.

Deepen my conviction, Lord, that all the good I do, I do only for the Father.

That as I do so, I will grow in a greater awareness of your Father’s presence.

And hopefully, grow in greater holiness and love.

Because I know Lord, the only way to be holy, is to live as if  You are always around, and to live desiring to please You alone and no one else.

 

Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

Reflection today on this passage from the Gospel according to St. Matthew gave me a sense of liberation.

For many years now, I saw this passage as some a sword of Damocles hanging above my head, reminding me that in everything I do I must strive to be perfect. Perfection must be manifest in the details, justifying obsessive-compulsive behavior.

I’m not passing judgment on that notion right now… But as I reflected on these sacred words, it dawned on me that that context of this passage is the Sermon of the Mount… This passage concludes the first part of that Sermon, and is preceded by the commands of the Lord Jesus to LOVE.

And God is Love. He has many perfections — Justice, Knowledge, Wisdom, Strength, Presence — list could go on.  But His most celebrated — and here contextualized — perfection is His Love. Love moved Him to create, to save, and to invite us to a relationship with Him…

So Lord, if I am to be perfect as You are perfect, then that means I am to love like You!!! It’s not so much anymore about having to be obsessive-compulsive about so many little details of my so many projects and activities…. It’s about love! Isn’t that liberating… but…

But my heart is weak, prone to many lusts and angers, and full of myself.

Convert me Lord, everyday, to You. And let your Spirit teach me to love as You love.

Amen.

Preach the Gospel to the Whole Creation (Mark 16:15)

Wow, Lord! Preach the Gospel to the Whole Creation?

You mean to rocks and minerals; to trees, plants and flowers; to fish and fowl; to four-legged creatures and insects, to mountains and seas, to clouds and skies, to man and woman?

Oh Lord! If I were to preach the Gospel to all creation, at all times, then the only way to do so is to be holy.

Let it be, my Lord, that where I walk or where I stand, where I work or where I rest, all creation is preached by your Life shining through mine.

Let my presence be like yeast… May I, as your servant Francesco of Assisi says… preach the Gospel at all times, to all creation, and when necessary, use words…